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"Heartthrob" is the season premiere of the third season of Angel and the forty-fifth episode in the series. Written and directed by David Greenwalt, it was originally broadcast on September 24, 2001, on The WB network.


On a routine patrol, Angel stakes a female vampire he recognizes from his past, but a moment too late. Her grief-stricken lover, Angel's old fighting buddy, is out for revenge for the present killing and a betrayal Angelus committed over 200 years ago.[1]


Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn return from defeating a group of demon worshipers. They discuss their full and unusual lives and why people would be obsessed with demons enough to worship them in the first place. The conversation eventually turns to the recent addition at the Hyperion Hotel, Fred. She has spent the last three months in her room, except when she enters the lobby for a few seconds before scurrying back. Cordelia notes how much she misses Pylea, but Wesley reminds her she was only there for a week before becoming queen, while Fred spent five years as a fugitive slave hiding in a cave alone. Another cause of concern is Angel, who has spent the summer at a monastery in Sri Lanka to help him cope with Buffy's death. Gunn reminds them of his suggestion that Angel get drunk and visit Las Vegas to get over Buffy, but Wesley says what Angel needs is peace and quiet.

Meanwhile, Angel fights monks who turned out to be Shur-hod demons. He kills them all and leaves the scene of battle, telling the pilgrims outside that he should have gone to Vegas.

Angel returns to Los Angeles and is eagerly greeted by his friends. He gives Cordelia a necklace, Wesley a 16th-century dagger, and Gunn a shrunken head, all of which are greatly appreciated. Angel inquires about Fred, and despite Cordelia's attempt to cover, Angel suspects she has not left her room. When Angel knocks on Fred's door, she nervously tries to get rid of the person on the other side. When she realizes it's Angel, she hurries to the door and greets him enthusiastically. Invited into Fred's room, Angel finds the walls covered in writing, similar to her cave in Pylea. She has both arcane mathematical formulas and different phrases. Upon seeing a section with the words "LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN," Angel asks what she's listening for, and Fred responds: "The click in my head when everything makes sense." Angel invites her downstairs, but a scream from Cordelia shatters her sense of security.

Cordelia's visions, which have grown increasingly painful over the last few months, send Angel, Wesley, and Gunn to intercept vampires crashing a college party. They discover the vampires with two kidnapped humans in a car, and after a battle, Angel stakes the female vampire. Before she turns to dust, the vampire asks: "Angelus?" Angel stares at the locket he had ripped off her neck and recognizes her as Elisabeth. Meanwhile, Cordelia recovers from her vision with the help of her ghost, Dennis, a relaxing bath, and some powerful painkillers.

Marseille, 1767Darla and Angelus spend time with Elisabeth and James. Angelus is annoyed with the loving relationship between the other couple. James steals a locket from a store window for Elisabeth — the same she would wear when Angel stakes her. Angelus is anxious to arrive at the ship docks to flee France and avoid the vampire hunter Holtz, who has been hunting him since Angelus killed the man's entire family.

In the present, James learns about Elisabeth's death and that Angel is responsible. He storms into the office of Dr. Gregson, a skin-molting Slod demon, to demand a special procedure. The doctor questions James's willingness to accept the price, as it is steep. James says he has already paid the price. Lorne sings at Caritas, as Wesley and Gunn grill Merl for information. Merl reveals James visited Dr. Gregson earlier.

At the Hyperion Hotel, Cordelia tries to get Angel to talk about Buffy's death. When Cordelia tells him he's not to blame and shouldn't feel guilty for not being there, Angel remains silent. Suddenly, James emerges from the basement and attacks Angel, demanding to know why he took Elisabeth from him. Fred chooses that moment to emerge, and Angel shouts at her to stay in her room, causing her to flee. He fights James in the lobby with the help of Cordelia. Angel manages to stake James, but to no effect. James does not catch fire when Angel throws him outside into the sun. They manage to escape to safety in the sewers, but James eventually tracks them down in a subway car.

During a phone call, Wesley tells Cordelia that James had his heart removed by Dr. Gregson, making him invincible, but it is not permanent, and he will eventually die. However, Cordelia misses the part about the invincibility being temporary due to the poor cell reception in the sewers. As they fight inside the subway train, James questions Angel's knowledge of true love. Angel tells him he had one true love but recently lost her and assures James he understands what it's like to lose someone he loves. James is skeptical, arguing that if Angel lost his true love, he would no longer want to live either. As Angel chokes him against the wall, he asks James if his definition of love is only real if it kills him. In response, James questions whether Angel believes love is only enjoyable as long as it costs him nothing. Soon, the effects of the surgery wear off, and James crumbles into dust.

Back at the hotel, Angel is upset by James' remarks about not being able to exist after losing his true love. He tells Cordelia that no one mattered in his life like Buffy, and now she's gone. But losing her did not kill him, and he was able to cope with it. He feels like he is betraying her somehow. However, Cordelia assures him by continuing to fight evil, he is honoring Buffy, as this is what she would want.

At a cantina in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, a man presents contact information for a shaman to Darla. He begins to flirt with her, coaxing her to stay and have a drink. She quickly vamps and sinks her fangs into him. As he falls to the floor, Darla turns to leave the bar in an advanced state of pregnancy.




Organizations and titles[]




Death count[]

  • Shur-hod demons, killed by Angel.
  • Party guys, killed by Elisabeth and her minions.
  • One vampire, dusted by Gunn.
  • One vampire, dusted by Wesley.
  • Elisabeth, staked by Angel.
  • One vampire, pushed by James and burned by the sun.
  • James, dusted six hours after a heartthrob operation.
  • A Nicaragua man, blood drained by Darla.

Behind the scenes[]


  • Amy Acker joins the regular cast and opening credits as of this episode.
  • Returning actress Julie Benz is now billed as a Special Guest Star.
  • The red runic letters to the right of Fred's door mean "Yeah."


  • The episode aired two weeks later than intended due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.[citation needed]
  • "Heartthrob" had an audience of 3.2 million households upon its original airing.[2]


  • Despite being at a monastery in Sri Lanka, none of the monks appear to be South Asian, nor is the language that Angel speaks to the people waiting outside local to Sri Lanka, implied to be some form of Tibetan.
  • In the scene where Wesley, Gunn, and Angel are attacking the vamps near the entrance to the parking garage, Wesley and Gunn seemingly stake their vamps. However, when Angel stakes the blonde, their bodies are visible behind Angel while Wes and Gunn stake their vamps again.
  • When Angel is confronted by James at the hotel, James is wearing a leather coat. When Angel is thrown to the right, James' coat disappears. When James starts walking to Angel again, his coat is back.
  • Despite being a vampire, James's reflection can be seen on the subway windows as it passes him by. While inside the subway, Angel's reflection can be seen on the windows as well.
  • Darla's location is identified by a subtitle as "Puerto Cabazas, Nicaragua." There is no actual Nicaraguan city by that name, but there is one named Puerto Cabezas.
  • When Darla stands up from the bar at the end of the episode, you can clearly see the edges of the fake stomach prosthetic she is wearing through her shirt.


International titles[]

  • Czech: "Bušení srdce" (Pounding Heart)
  • Finnish: "Suuri rakkaus" (Great Love)
  • French: "A coeur perdu" (Without Heart)
  • German: "Herzflattern" (Heartthrob)
  • Hungarian: "Örök szerelem" (Eternal Love)
  • Italian: "Un cuore perduto" (A Lost Heart)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Amor da Minha Vida" (Love of My Life)
  • Russian: "Биение сердца" (Heartbeat)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "Los latidos del Corazón" (The Heartbeats)
  • Spanish (Spain): "El amor" (Love)
  • Turkish: "Kalp Atışı" (Heartthrob)


Promotional stills[]

Behind the scenes[]


  1. "angel: Heartthrob." TheWB.com. Archived from the original on October 22, 2004.
  2. "Nielsen Ratings for Angel's Third Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008.